What We Forget While Writing

There are plenty of things that we forget about while writing. Plenty of important details that slip our minds. At first you might think I’m referencing that time you forgot to pick your child up from school because you were writing a particularly engaging chapter, but I’m actually talking about things we forget in our actual story. I’m talking about things that pop up in our lives on a daily basis that, because they aren’t remarkable, we don’t think to mention.

I’m talking about:

  • Weather
  • A phone call from a friend
  • Needing to go to the bathroom
  • Needing to eat
  • Having to blow your nose or sneeze
  • Tripping over your own feet
  • Losing power
  • Having your car break down

And the list goes on.

That’s not to say these things should always be in your book. I don’t want to hear about it every time your character has to pee, or munches on some M&Ms. But if they perpetually munch on M&Ms, that’s a trait. Or if they have to go to the bathroom when they’re about to walk into the interview room, that’s a problem (though you might generally want to leave that part out). You get the gist of it. 

These things are often overlooked, but sometimes they are perfect for your story. You might be wondering how things can possibly get any worse for your character (and I assure you they always can) – what if there was a tornado? Or hurricane? Or a lightning strike that caused a power outage on the whole block? What if they were too busy to take their car into the shop when the check engine light came on at the beginning of the book, and then thirty chapters later it breaks down at a critical moment? These events, used correctly, can add tension and drama.

It’s hard to remember the things you always forget while writing (you’re welcome for that amazing piece of insight), but it’s worth it to try. It’s worth it to spend some time reaching far and wide in your mind, trying to figure out what’s missing, what you can add, how you can be more creative. Think of a problem that’s unique to your situation, something readers wouldn’t expect, some wrinkle in the situation that hasn’t been beaten to death by other writers. Cast your thoughts as far out as you can before reeling something back in. The added elements of your story are something that people will notice and appreciate.

What do you sometimes forget while writing that would be a good addition to a story?  On the flip side, what part of everyday life is boring or awkward and shouldn’t be mentioned?

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I'm a 25 year old recent college graduate (who still clings to that title over two years after graduating) and aspiring author. I also love sports and going out with my friends.

33 thoughts on “What We Forget While Writing

  1. I think that the daily routine doesn’t need to explained to the last detail, but I do love it when something like the weather pops up in a story und underlines a statement. It always depends on how you build in such “normal” happening.

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  2. Which reminds me of the love scenes in most films. They don’t show that one has to run into the bathroom in fear of dirtying the bed, or sofa or top of the washing machine, etc. Really, anyone can testify to this if at least if one can afford to be honest in public that nobody in their right mind stay in bed after the deeds because it simply gross! All that running juices and sticky thing, itching and all that… I simply cannot.

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    1. you are so right; bodily fluids are so often ignored except in comedic situations. When Lily Allen sung about the wet patch in the middle of the bed it must have been the first time in a pop song

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  3. I really notice after actions scenes when I forget to mention the physical toll on my characters. If there is no sweat, blood, or mussed hair, the most perfectly descriptive action sequence suddenly seems so fake.

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  4. Good reminders on your list! When I’m reading, I do like the little everyday frustrations that crop up, as it makes you feel you know exactly what the characters are going through, because it happens to all of us. I’ve put some of all mentioned in your list in my story. It makes the situations more real, that you know what they are going through.

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  5. Thanks for bringing me to think about this! It’s somewhat of a dilemma isn’t it? Just how many of the small, everyday details should you include to bring honesty and authenticity to your writing without making it mundane or boring? I think you clarify this with your suggestion that those actions that add to character development (become ‘traits’) are essential and not to be overlooked. Ditto those small events that end up, as small events so often do, having a big impact on what happens next. Thanks for the thought thread 😊 Happy writing!

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  6. Great post and so true. I actually had a mc sitting ‘in the can’ doing his business in a short western horror. And while I didn’t describe what he was doing, it enabled me to add historical fact about the invention of toilet paper which was read off a newspaper before it was crumpled for use as, well toilet paper. It was a very short scene but It helped with atmosphere and setting, etc. Not a scene for every story, or indeed character but for for this, it fit perfectly.

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  7. Well, I’m doing one thing right with my book. I am putting in daily life. However, I am leaving out the bathroom scenes. I do mention going into that room, but no one will visualize what’s actually happening in there.

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  8. I love your list! I included a conversation between two people sat between the dividers of a 1820s privy, to set the scene of life in Crete at that time. I’ll have to wait for feedback post publication to see if I’ve got it right. X

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  9. In a fantastic writer’s book I work with, this and ideas similar are presented to stretch a writer’s skills and imagination. Practices like “have a character do something completely out of character” … “have a character view the world in an entirely different way for a day” … provocative prompts …

    BTW, a button on your site for email deliveries of posts would be welcomed. 🙂

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    1. That sounds like a great book – what is it called? I may have to check it out!

      There’s a follow button on the right hand side of the homepage that let’s you follow via email. It’s right below the picture and blurb. Please let me know if it doesn’t work!

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      1. The book’s “A Writer’s Book of Days” by Judy Reeves. It’s a catalyst in many (most all, lately) of my daily posts. I make use of the book on many levels, incl. for daily prompts.

        I find the WP ones dull, pedestrian, uninspiring, unoriginal. Too many people trying too hard to come up with something thought-provoking that for this writer is Novacaine to the brain.
        Thanks for the button info. Gonna check it out now!

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  10. Wooow, lemme tell you this was such an amazing insightful post thank you for the reminder. It’s so true the events that we fail to mention as we think they are not important is sometimes the filling within the sandwhich that leads to that satisfyingly good burp after of enjoyment lol, I hope you get my gist…you are such an amazing and inspiring writer please take the time to have a visit on my Blog your existence and comments will be much appreciated. So much Love and Support Pandora x

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      1. Thank you so much, hope you enjoy leave some comments to let me know what you think hunny ill much appreciate that from you. Love Pandora x

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  11. You’re right. It’s the little things about a character that create verisimilitude — like when a detective pops a breath mint before interviewing an attractive suspect of the opposite sex. It’s another level of detail in the verbal pictures we paint.

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  12. This is an interesting read. Sometimes small traits inspire our daily routines. e.g that character in that story I read keeps exact change to get a drink. It saves lots of time and to think.

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  13. What a great post! I often think of many great writing ideas that I say have fallen into the “the grey tar”…And even wrote about it here. I can now use your insights in this post as gloves to try and dig through the tar and use these forgotten gems in new and different ways! Thank you for visiting my blog, it’s appreciated, and I have returned your kindness by following you to see what other great ideas you have in store! Cheers, Jamy 😀

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  14. I’ve actually always wondered why, in most pieces of writing, the characters never went to the toilet. I think we have this ideal vision of a world where bodily functions don’t necessarily exist. XD
    Enjoyed your post very much!

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